On what was a sombre weekend following the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the decision was taken for the British GT race weekend to continue as planned, with the entire field pausing to observe a two-minute silence on both days as a mark of respect.
When running did get underway on Saturday, the Team Parker Racing crew used the opening free practice session to run through setup options on the Porsche 911 GT3 R, with Jones and Malvern then ending the second session sixth-fastest of the 28-car field.
During Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session, Jones took the wheel first and shaved a full 1.5 seconds off his best qualifying effort from the same circuit last year. Malvern then took over for the second half and – despite having two lap times disallowed – helped to put the car 11th on the grid for Sunday’s race.
With Malvern missing Sunday morning’s warm-up for personal reasons, Jones shook the car down first thing and was in a positive mood for the race, knowing the setup the team was running favoured performance over a full stint rather than single-lap pace.
And what followed was a superbly controlled display from Jones, who gradually climbed the order during a turbulent first hour to set up a breathless end to the race.
When the lights went out, Jones got a good start to pass Mia Flewitt’s 7T6 McLaren on the brakes into Druids corner, and was then elevated to ninth when Kelvin Fletcher had to pit his Paddock Motorsport McLaren with a door failure.
After a brief safety car period to clear a stranded GT4 car from the exit of Druids, Jones pressed on again, and picked up yet more places when Ian Loggie’s RAM Racing Mercedes and Adam Balon’s Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini collided at Surtees, the fall-out also sending Nick Halstead’s Fox Motorsport McLaren into the gravel and bringing out the safety car for a second time.
Now running fifth after the sort-out, Jones had Loggie’s Mercedes right on his tail at the restart but defended hard until a small error on the brakes into Paddock Hill Bend sent the Porsche wide and allowed the championship-leading Mercedes through.
With a third safety car – again called for a stranded GT4 car – bunching the pack up further, Jones went wheel-to-wheel with Simon Watts’ Team Rocket RJN McLaren around Clearways before pitting from eighth place to hand to Malvern.
Once installed, Pro driver Malvern quickly latched onto the tail of the #6 RAM Mercedes, now driven by Callum Macleod, and pushed hard to get past. Malvern showed the nose of the Porsche up the inside at Graham Hill Bend, but couldn’t quite find a gap as the two cars circulated for the final 40 minutes nose-to-tail. The #66 SD teams Porsche eventually crossed the line in seventh, moving up a spot when the race-leading Team Abba Mercedes-AMG suffered a fuel pump failure in the closing minutes.
The result marks the strongest finish of the season so far, with both Jones and Malvern hoping to continue their forward momentum in to the season finale at Donington Park next month.
Nick Jones said: “It’s been a very difficult weekend for a lot of reasons, but it’s also been a good weekend racing-wise. Obviously, it was very moving to be a part of the championship’s tribute to Her Majesty on both days, and we all raced on with her in our thoughts this weekend. When it came to the race itself, the car felt brilliant and the boys in the team did a mega job to give us a car to fight with. My half of the race was a bit all over the place with people going off around me, but I concentrated on keeping things clean and taking chances when I got them. I was disappointed to lose places with the mistake at Paddock Hill, but these things happen and you learn from them and move on. Scott pushed as hard as he could over the closing stages to get past the RAM Mercedes, but it’s not easy to overtake around here. We’ll take a seventh, which gives us a good result to build on going into the final race of the year.”
Scott Malvern added: “The whole weekend was tough, but I felt we did a really good team job this round. Nick did brilliantly to work his way up the order when those around him lost their heads, and his pace was competitive from the start of the weekend and mistakes were minimised. For my part that second half of the race was physically exhausting. I got into the car and pushed like mad but as soon as we get close to the rear of another car we get some strange aero issues that upset the balance, so I was hanging on to it all the way around the GP loop trying to get past the Mercedes, but that gap never appeared. Still, seventh is a good result and we can go into the season finale expecting to be in the mix for points.”
The final round of the Intelligent Money British GT Championship takes place at Donington Park on October 15/16.